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Walking is one of the best ways to improve your health.
It's free and low-impact and can be enjoyed alone or with a partner.
You might not realize that walking can also reduce your risk for a number of cancers, lower your blood pressure and cut your risk of heart disease in half.
Going for regular, brisk walks in combination with healthy eating, can also help you to stay within a healthy weight range, and have you looking and feeling good!
Dress for Success
Wear loose fitting, lightweight, comfortable clothing and dress in layers. During warm weather, wear a hat and sunscreen and carry a reusable water bottle. And wear comfortable shoes with good cushioning, replacing them every 700 to 800 kilometres.
Warm up your muscles by walking slowly at first, then gradually building your pace. Don't forget to cool down when you finish! For warm up and cool down tips, click here.
Find the Right Pace
When starting out, walk at a moderate pace. You should be moving at a faster pace than a stroll without over-exerting yourself. If you are with a partner, you should be able to talk without feeling breathless. You should also notice an increase in your heart rate and body temperature.
Start with a 10 minute daily walk, working your way up 30 to 60 minutes each day or 150 minutes per week. If you find that daunting, try two 15 or 30 minute walks per day and think of ways to fit more walking into your routine.
Make Every Step Count
Most people take between 4000 and 6000 steps during an average workday, however increasing to 10,000 steps (about 5 miles or 8 kilometres) can improve your overall health. The recommended number of steps per day varies widely between ages and abilities.
For instance, kids should be taking 16,500 steps in a day, while healthy, older adults should be aiming for 6000 to 8500 steps. People with disabilities and chronic diseases might be comfortable taking 3500 to 5000 steps and frail, elderly and chronically ill adults might only tackle a few steps at a time.
An excellent way to find out how many steps you are taking is to wear a pedometer. Pedometers are small, inexpensive, easy-to-use devices that clip to your waistband and track the number of steps you take.
Add More Steps to Your Day
There are so many ways to increase your walking distance in a day. For short trips, leave your car at home and walk instead, or park several blocks from the office. Walk the kids to school, walk the dog or get off the bus a couple of stops before your house. Take the stairs wherever possible, or organize a walking group with co-workers or friends. And hide the remote control so you'll get up to change the channel on the T.V.
Keep it Interesting
It's important to keep your walks interesting and motivating. For instance, don't let bad weather spoil your walk. If it's cold or raining, walk indoors at a shopping centre, running track or arena. Or walk up and down the stairs in your apartment building.
Set reasonable goals for adding distance to your walks, such as using landmarks to mark an end or turning point that you intend to reach. Join a local walking group for new walking routes, and try to increase your intensity by walking up hills or stairs wherever possible.
Many people also find it helpful to use walking poles. And carry a pedometer to monitor your progress, or listen to music on a portable sound system.
Step Out Safely
If you are walking on your own, stick to familiar paths and well-lit populated areas. Let someone know where you will be and when you intend to return. Wear reflective clothing at night, and don't forget to stay well-hydrated.